Posts tagged with "Libraries":
In the year 2010, Steven Holl was chosen to design a community branch of the Queens Library on a commanding site in Long Island City. It would be located opposite the United Nations Headquarters on the shore of the Queens side of the East River and on an angle with the Roosevelt Memorial. In this location bordering Gantry State Park, with a worthy communal purpose, Holl designed a kind of sparkling, bejeweled gate to the city. While the site's close proximity to the U.N. and the Roosevelt Island memorial creates an honorable pedigree, there is a spate of developers' towers around the library—well-built, but expediently designed. Because of the growth of Hunters Point, there was need for a communal branch library. New York City's Queens Library and New York City's Department of Design and Construction (DDC) co-sponsored this modernist design.
Long Island City, or, more specifically Hunters Point, has a rural history that extends back to the 17th century and only later became a cultural and commercial center that is now heavily residential. There are many galleries here, too. In Hunters Point, in the vicinity of the library, 10,000 residential units were built in the last decade and there is a projection of more in the near future.
This Queens Library makes its books available; while it welcomes digital technology, and sets apart a space for cyber activities and working computers, it spurns the notion of a 'bookless library.' In that sense, it is a humanist institution: embracing tradition while also focusing on up-to-date technology.
The architectural design activity for this library may have begun in 2010, but the initiating plans for the social presence of a library were begun about a decade earlier by Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, a Queens Democrat. Van Bramer made it possible for Holl's building to reach above a single story, which was Holl's wish for a more monumental statement so that the 81-foot high building would not be dwarfed by the surrounding towers and have a presence on its own. As it turns out, the construction of the new library will cost the city $42 million.
Contemporary materials were de rigueur for Queens: steel and reinforced concrete and reinforced glass sheets were still industrial, while their functions were solved with the help of digital programs like Rhino. Robert Silman's structural engineering firm postulated that they needed many beams to stiffen the building around the huge windows, so that without any columns in the building, it could withstand any wind pressure. Nine major beams go straight across the narrow building—40-feet wide—in an east/west direction. This supports the suspension of the floors which often are not continuous from north to south. In other words, there is some tricky cantilevering of the floor levels. The walls are a meager 12 inches thick so the steel reinforcement is crucial.
In the beginning, Holl planned for the facing material to be a foamed aluminum, but it was substituted by a subtle, sustainable aluminum paint due to cost constraints. The paint will cover the oriented strand board texture of the reinforced concrete wall surfaces. This all-over texture from flat-surfaced random wooden bits for the formwork is opposed to the Brutalists' rough plywood surface formwork texture. This sustainable painted surface will achieve a glow or “subtle sparkle.”
This was not Holl's first experience designing libraries. In 1988 he won a competition for an extension to the venerable Berlin Amerika Gedenk Bibliothek, but it was not built, a lost commission that he sorely remembers.
Holl is very conscious of nature's intrinsic part in his designs. This Queens Library building is economical and sustainable, in accord with Holl's consciousness of our standing in this planet; it meets the LEED standards. Although the energy system is efficient, they could not use expensive geothermal wells. Another unfortunate budgetary constraint was the prohibition of a reflecting pool, a feature which often accompanies Holl's architecture. However, the project is surrounded by Gantry State Park, a fine imposing setting. There is planned transition between the park and the Library grounds in the form of steps leading towards it. Saved from the budgetary cuts to the building is the rooftop auditorium for which Queens Library recently okayed the funds.
Light coming into the library is profuse: it arrives from all sides. In order to filter the glare, Holl designed silvery, translucent motorized curtains to cover the large-scale windows and this sun screening helps to control the amount of air conditioning dispenced. The largest window on the western exposure has a slanted lower linear frame echoing the line of stairs. Its peculiar shape is vaguely reminiscent of the art of Keith Haring.
Circulation paths have been created around the library for processional movement: The main route leads to the adult section at the west where stairs climb parallel to the diagonal edge of the window frame. There is an elevator on the east side, but the pride of place is the ceremonial climb to different levels of open stacks of bookshelves for three age groups.
A major aesthetic notion of the building is its virtual sculptural carving out of the rectangular mass of a box until it arrives at divisions like the three main age areas. This effect, according to Olaf Schmidt, associate at Steven Holl Architects, might come from Holl's preoccupation with limestone carvings around 2010. Holl, himself, has described some of these buildings' sculptural formations as “subtractive.”
Holl's intuitive inclination can perhaps best be linked to a penchant for the sense-centered ideas of Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908-1961) and his notion that the body and that which it perceives cannot be disentangled from each other.
Into this mix can be added a rationalizing element, the introduction of proportions. In all his work, Holl is guided by the Fibonacci series and the Golden Section (1.618 ratio) to bring equanimity to the visitor's mind.
If you think public libraries are an institution with a proud past but a problematic future you have to visit the new Elmhurst Public Library by Marpillero Pollak Architects. Commissioned in 2004 by New York’s Department of Design and Construction (DDC), it’s not just a triumphant work of civic architecture, but one that creates community and celebrates what it means to be a public institution in 2017.
The building is entered through a small community park on the corner of Broadway and 51st Avenue and transforms this amorphous Queens corner adjacent to Queens Boulevard into a centralized urban core. Its primary envelope is a terra-cotta rainscreen facade with aluminum inserts that mark the floor slabs and act as a connector to front and back double height glass cubes. These two structural glass spaces position patrons in the larger environment: a rear community park and the urban thoroughfare of Broadway. The Cubes, which glow as luminous beacons after dark, are calibrated to relate to the scale of the existing historical fabric, including the landmark 1760 St. James Episcopal Church Parish Hall across Broadway. They announce the library’s presence and the front cube floats above the main entry’s “memory wall,” which is made of bricks salvaged from the original Carnegie building. The interior of the Broadway cube is covered by a relief in elm wood from the artist Allan McCollum and is visible through the glass walls from the street.
Elmhurst badly needs this new facility, as it is one of the most diverse residential neighborhoods in the world and home to mostly poor immigrants from 80 countries. It had long been served by a vaguely classical Lord & Hewlett–designed Carnegie library that was built to house 3,000 volumes in 1904, and has had to adapt to changing populations with major renovations and additions in 1920, 1926, 1949, and 1965. These changes led to an interior that was broken into small, fragmented spaces that were insufficient for what had become the second busiest location in the Queens library system.
The original library was centered in a small park, but over time a large adjacent residential building put the space in permanent shadow. In addition, circulation through the old building spilled over into reading and stacks, limiting reading space and other program requirements. The Carnegie library design emphasized the visual control of the library, but this can be intimidating for immigrants and even the ground floor windows were permanently covered. All of these were inadequate to serve a huge population that requires new and different services. The architects were hired to design a modern library able to accommodate the branch’s enormous number of patrons and make it an open, transparent, and welcoming center for the community.
The interior of the new library is color-coded by use: children, teen, media, etc. It is also full of every imaginable representative of this diverse community, who are not just reading books, but doing school homework, playing games on computers, and seeking help from the librarians. The architects intend for the glass structure to open the library up to the side parklet and rear garden, which serves as an outdoor learning center for this dense urban community. Commissioned by the DDC, this design delivers on nearly everything promised by the agency’s Design and Construction Excellence program created under Commissioner David Burney.
In the unassuming town of Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania, Front Studio created a vibrant community library that makes a major visual impact. “Our work is based on the importance of making architecture experiential and memorable so that it fosters a higher level of awareness in people who don’t normally interact with it,” said principal Art Lubetz, who spearheaded the project.
Historically, Sharpsburg is an industrial, blue-collar town—many of its citizens work for the local H.J. Heinz Company. To reflect this heritage and to help stay within the restrictive budget, Lubetz and his team picked industrial elements, like the exterior corrugated metal paneling, concrete flooring, and exposed trusses. Each of the “building blocks” is painted the exact same bright color inside and out so that the interior is clearly communicated to the street. The bold hues make the material palette feel airy and energetic, an appropriate atmosphere for the many children who frequent the space.
Due to its location—just across the way from the community center and near the community garden—the Sharpsburg Library is a major gathering center for the little town. “It’s flexible and adaptable,” said Lubetz. “There’s a dynamic overlap between the old building and the new, the interior and the exterior, and soft and hard surfaces.”
Despite its fragmented appearance on the outside, the volumes connect fluidly on the inside, even enveloping the site’s existing structure (an Indian restaurant) without breaking the flow, making wayfinding within the library simple. “The volumes intersect like a piece of sculpture,” said Lubetz. “I like to think that there is an element of art about this place.…I’ve been around long enough to believe that architecture can be art.”
Lubetz and his team also sourced the furniture, which turned out to be a challenge. “It was tricky to find relatively inexpensive stuff that was durable and colorful—like the children’s [Verner] Panton chairs,” Lubetz explained. Front Studio designed a few pieces as well, such as the library’s main desk.
Other playful touches, like the garage door out to the courtyard and the large exterior circular cutouts, not only “bond the site to its environment,”but are meant to evoke positive emotions: “Kids love this place because it’s so vibrant,” said Lubetz. “And people still call me because they saw it driving down the street and it made them smile.”
In contrast to institutional expansions that gobble open space, Maya Lin Studio’s design for the Smith College library reduces the building's footprint to add greenery back to the campus. Two curved glassy wings will bookend the library's core and replace ungainly additions from the 1960s and 80s that restricted movement from the science quadrangle to the campus center.
The design defers to Frederick Law Olmsted's 1893 campus plan, which envisioned the campus as both a botanic garden and arboretum. The glazed facades of the two "jewel boxes" (really?) hug Neilson Library (1909) and provide complementary programs: The north wing is more social, with a digital media commons, general collections, and a cafe, while the south wing holds Smith's special collections, many of which focus on women's history. A new outdoor amphitheater and sunken courtyard on the north side will soften the gradient between in and outdoors, especially during those long New England winters. Landscape design is by Edwina von Gal in partnership with Ryan Associates.
Inside, notable features include an oculus atop the central atrium and a top-floor "skyline room" that bisects the older building's roof to offer sweeping views of the campus lake and the Holyoke Mountain Range. The reliance on natural light, Lin explained, will reduce the building's energy consumption.
Construction is expected to begin next summer and the building should be complete by fall 2020.
Opened last July, official images of the Interim Brooklyn Heights Library have been released. Designed by New York studio Leven Betts, the space will be a three-year temporary home for the branch until construction of the new library—part of a high-rise development at 280 Cadman Plaza West—is complete. The interim facility is located in the parish hall at Our Lady of Lebanon Church, 109 Remsen Street. Development firm, The Hudson Companies is behind the project.
Speaking to The Architect's Newspaper through email, Leven Betts said how they "designed the Interim space to be a light-filled pleasant space of reading, learning, and community gathering that would function seamlessly for the branch and community while the new building was constructed." The firm also described their design strategy as "simple," aiming to "maximize the openness of the existing parish hall space while still providing for private spaces at the librarian staff area and the Multi-Purpose Room." The solution they said, "is a single translucent wall that bellies out at the ends to create the private spaces with access to light and fresh air and curves in at the middle to create a large shared open space for reading, studying and browsing books."
Using Panelit—a translucent honeycomb-like material—the wall has Walt Whitman’s poem Crossing Brooklyn Ferry printed onto it. Whitman's work can be read in full as it spans the wall's 100-foot length. "The response to the design has been very positive," said Leven Betts. In fact, Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) President and CEO Linda E. Johnson said: “With its bright interior and comfortable environment for attending a program, learning a new skill or simply browsing the shelves, the interim Brooklyn Heights Library is as welcoming and inspiring as the neighborhood it serves." According to Leven Betts, BPL administrators praised the quality and speed of the project (which took one year from commencement of design to completion of construction).
Leven Betts are currently working on the total renovation of two other BPL projects, one in East Flatbush Brooklyn and one in Borough Park.